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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Social influences and barriers to seeking healthcare for mental health problems among UK military personnel: qualitative and quantitative investigations

June, 2016
Article:

This thesis explores social influences and barriers to seeking healthcare for mental health problems among UK military personnel.

Abstract

Approximately 60% of UK military personnel who experience mental health problems, do not seek help. Typical demographics of military personnel provide one explanation for this, as help-seeking is lowest in young males in the general population. There are, however, further issues concerning the military, such as heightened stigma concerns and the effect of military culture on help-seeking behaviours. The overarching aim of this thesis is to determine the main social influences, barriers and facilitators of help-seeking for mental health problems in UK military personnel (Service Personnel, Reserves and ex-Service personnel). The thesis is comprised of three studies and utilises a mixed methods approach. The two qualitative studies examine factors which were barriers and facilitators of help-seeking for mental health problems. The quantitative study explores how social support, military characteristics, attitudes towards mental health treatment, and stigma are associated with help-seeking. All studies utilise male only samples. The first qualitative study sample (N=16) of non-helpseekers and help-seekers is taken from phase two of a longitudinal cohort study of UK military personnel. The second qualitative study sample (N=10) was recruited from helpseeking beneficiaries of Combat Stress, an Armed Forces mental health charity. In-depth semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted for both qualitative studies and analysed using thematic analysis. The quantitative study sample (N=453) is taken from a clinical telephone interview study investigating help-seeking behaviours from a sample of respondents in phase three of the military cohort study. Descriptive analyses exploring the relationship between help-seeking and stigma/barriers to care are presented. Key findings show that public stigma, self-stigma, attitudinal preferences for selfmanagement of problems, and poor social support are barriers to seeking help. The main facilitator of help-seeking was supportive social networks. The research compares findings with existing literature in military and general populations. Recommendations for future research and policy implications are discussed.

Full Reference

Sharp, M. L., 2016. Social influences and barriers to seeking healthcare for mental health problems among UK military personnel: qualitative and quantitative investigations. Doctoral thesis. King's Centre for Military Health Research.

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